I don’t remember how or when it started, but every night it’s the same.
It starts as the faintest glow, a murmur of the stunning terror that is doomed to haunt this night and every night to come. I’ll see the dim embers twinkle as I make my way through the trees; a fever is waking in those humble sparks from which there is no escape.
The clockwork of fate is at work, and every night I am one of its cogs.
I see it arrive every night. It blooms in an instant in the arms of broken trees, illuminating the forest like the face of the sun itself. It licks the air, raising its ephemeral arms in a flickering tantrum whose only restraint is the circle of rocks strung around it. Then it starts to speak. Gently whispering into my ear, the living light crackles and sputters, calling me to come closer. And as I look into the light, into the brilliant eruption of warmth and radiant color, I can feel it getting closer…as though the space between myself and the light is simply disappearing.
Before I know what’s happened, I am drifting above it, above the gleaming furnace itself. Transfixed beyond self-awareness or self-preservation, I am lost in the sublime warmth that washes over me in waves of searing light. Every memory, every thought is burned away, and all that is left is awe.
I spiral around the flickering light, lost in wonder, inching closer and closer. I can feel the thick breath of the fire percolating through my lungs, and the terrible heat stings more with every strained heartbeat. Only after my muscles seize, and I idly drift into the dark, am I released from the gravity of the marvelous light. Too exhausted to move and barely aware of the world around me, I succumb to sleep.
I wake up the next day, wondering if next time I’ll finally embrace the light.
I normally don't include a preface like this, but in this case I think I have to. Writing a comedic piece about depression is a tricky thing, and the last thing I want to do is trivialize it. My hope is that this is both funny and relatable, particularly to people who have experienced depression.
INT. APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - EVENING
TEXT: Week 1
JAKE, a 20-something, is reading a book and sipping on coffee. Then, a knock at the door. He gets up and answers the door; on the other side stands DEPRESSION, the most bro-ish bro you’ve ever seen.
DEPRESSION: Duuuuuude, ‘sup bra? Jake, it’s been a while…like…too long, dude, too long. Listen, I’m gonna crash here for a while, and don’t worry, I brought a shitload of garlic bread and ice cream.
JAKE: Hello Depression.
DEPRESSION: ‘Sup bra.
Depression lets himself into the apartment, immediately making his way to the kitchen. Jake reluctantly follows.
As Jake turns the corner to the kitchen, he sees that the kitchen counters are stacked with ice cream and garlic bread.
JAKE: Depression, where did all of this come from?!
DEPRESSION: Dude, just chill. Grab a fuck-ton of ice cream and just chill.
LIVING ROOM - WEEK FOUR - NIGHT
TEXT: Week 4
Jake is watching TV with Depression. Jake seems deflated, more lethargic than when we first saw him.
DEPRESSION: Hey, do you remember that time your sister had a stomach ache and you said it was nothing and it turned out to be appendicitis and she almost died?
DEPRESSION: That was insane dude.
JAKE: I mean, I guess/
DEPRESSION: Dude, you know what we haven’t done in forever? Linger over shit from the past. How has it been so long? Let’s fucking linger, man.
JAKE: I don’t know, Depression, I just don’t know. Maybe let’s not?
DEPRESSION: No, dude, we have to. For reals. Like, do you remember this song?
Depression whips out his phone and starts playing a song.
DEPRESSION: Didn’t you get dumped on three separate occasions while this song was playing?
JAKE: Yeah…it was more like two and a half…
DEPRESSION: Bro, that sucks. Let’s listen to it like ten times and talk about how you’ll always be alone.
BEDROOM - WEEK NINE - AFTERNOON
TEXT: Week 9
Jake is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Depression hangs out on the end of the bed, playing a gameboy.
DEPRESSION: ‘Sup bra?
JAKE: I should get out of bed, but I really don’t want to.
DEPRESSION: Why would you do that? This is fucking amazing.
JAKE: No, it’s really not.
DEPRESSION: Not feeling well?
JAKE: I don’t really feel anything.
DEPRESSION: I bet you feel super self-conscious about your emotional numbness.
DEPRESSION: Are you thinking cheap beer or ice cream? Trick question, ‘cause we’re having both!
LIVING ROOM - WEEK THIRTEEN
TEXT: Week 13
Jake is sprawled on one couch, Depression on the other. Neither are really doing anything.
JAKE: I’m gonna go on a bike ride.
DEPRESSION: Why the fuck would you do that?
JAKE: I don’t know. But I’m gonna go on a bike ride.
DEPRESSION: That sounds awful. Good luck with that. Can we dwell on your lack of confidence when you get back?
JAKE: I guess.
Jake gets off the couch and walks out of the house.
KITCHEN - WEEK EIGHTEEN
TEXT: Week 18
Jake is washing a large pile of dishes, whistling poorly. Depression sits on a counter.
DEPRESSION: Yo dude, I’m gonna go on a chicken nugs run. You want anything?
JAKE: Nope, I’m all set.
DEPRESSION: Okay, cool.
Depression walks out of the room. The front door opens and closes off screen.
LIVING ROOM - LATER
Jake finishes the dishes and walks out into the living room. A note sits on one of the couches; he picks it up and reads it.
CLOSE UP ON LETTER
DEPRESSION (V.O.): Dear Jacob, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that I did not go on a chicken nugs run. You know, I probably will get some chicken nugs, but there was the implication that I would return…sadly, this is not the case. My baller lifestyle demands that I can get up and leave on the go, and my time here has runs its course. We had some great times talking about paralyzing loneliness, regret, and a general sensation of emptiness, but such conversations will have to be put on hold for the time being. Sincerely, Depression.
Someone knocks on the door. Jake smiles as he opens the door; it’s Depression, with his hand ready for a high-five.
LAWYER (O.S.): And you’re sure this is what you want, Ms. Shaw?
INT. LAW OFFICE - DAY
LINDA SHAW, a well dressed woman in her thirties, sits across from a LAWYER’s desk. In front of Linda is a legal document with an ‘X’ marking an empty signature line. There are many other papers that accompany this document; while its exact nature is uncertain, it is clearly important. There’s a pen in Linda’s hand, but she just stares at the paper.
She inhales deeply as she considers her decision.
EXT. PARK - DAY
CHILD LINDA exhales. She’s walking quickly and has a look of disappointment on her face. The source of her anxiety comes into focus as she approaches it; it’s a broken kite in a vivid shade of red. The frame has snapped on one side, and it wobbles weakly on the grass as it catches the breeze in vain. She picks it up and looks behind her, where her FATHER stands with his hands on his hips.
CHILD LINDA: Can we fix it?
FATHER: I don’t think so. Let me see.
Linda brings him the remains of the kite.
FATHER: Yeah, it’s a goner. Sorry Linda.
He puts his arm around her shoulder and takes the broken kite. They walk toward the exit of the park, and he throws the kite into a garbage barrel as they go. Our view remains on the kite in the trash as they walk away.
FATHER (O.C.): You wanna get some ice cream?
CHILD LINDA (O.C.): Yeah!
INT. LAW OFFICE
Linda is still in contemplation, motionless. The scene looks exactly the same as before, save for one glaring alteration; several pieces of string- colored in the exact shades of the broken kite and the garbage barrel- are wrapped around Linda’s fingers and hang from above like a marionette. This is completely unacknowledged by either Linda or the lawyer.
LAWYER: This is a big/
EXT. COAST- BEACH - EVENING
LAWYER (cont.)(O.S.): /commitment, you know.
TEENAGE LINDA is sitting in the sand with a TEENAGE BOY. They’re watching the sun set, and the sky is pink and orange. They lean in towards each other, almost kissing, before Linda pulls back a little.
TEENAGE LINDA: One thing…I’ve never kissed anyone before.
BOY: Really? Why not?
Linda is taken aback a little by his response.
TEENAGE LINDA: …I don’t know? I never had the chance I guess.
BOY: No one’s tried to kiss you before?
TEENAGE LINDA: Nope.
BOY: Huh. Okay.
They lean in and kiss awkwardly.
INT. LAW OFFICE
Linda is still looking down at the document. Now there’s string going along the length of her right arm, in the same violent shades of pink and orange as the sky on her youthful date. She continues to stare at the document in silence.
INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT
Early-20’s Linda enters the apartment, exhausted. She’s wearing a bright blue dress. The small apartment is trashed; the kitchen has all of the telltale signs of a party, albeit one that already burnt itself out.
LINDA: Crap. Sarah? You here?
An indistinct noise comes from the bathroom. Linda knocks.
LINDA: Sarah, you alright?
Even with a door between them, it’s apparent that Sarah is extremely drunk.
SARAH: Linda, hey can you come in here? Please?
Linda opens the door; Sarah is sitting next to the toilet, leaning against the wall. Her hair is a mess of platinum blonde.
LINDA: Oh Sarah!
SARAH: You never have this, do you? ‘Cause you don’t drink?
LINDA: That’s true Sarah. I’m assuming there was a party?
SARAH: Yeah. Yeah I had people over.
LINDA: Did they really leave you like this?
Sarah seems upset by this thought.
SARAH: They did, I guess. Wow. Wow that’s really shitty of them. Shitty shitty shitty.
Sarah groans and leans over the toilet, bracing herself. A moment later, she leans back.
SARAH: False alarm. Never drink, Linda. Or never start I guess. Dammit this is shitty.
INT. LAW OFFICE
Strings, the colors of Sarah’s blonde hair and Linda’s blue dress, are attached to Linda’s left arm.
LAWYER: Do you want to/
EXT. CEMETERY - DAY
Linda is dressed in black, standing next to other people in black. She’s sobbing quietly.
LAWYER (cont.)(O.S.): /take some time to think it over?
INT. LAW OFFICE
Black strands of string descend to Linda’s shoulders and head. Finally, Linda moves. All of the strings pull up, and it’s impossible to tell whether it’s the strings pulling or Linda’s own muscles that get her to stand. She leans over the document and sighs. She glances up at the lawyer; again, the marionette-esque nature of the strings blur any sense of whether her actions are truly hers.
LINDA: No, no I know what I’m doing. I know exactly what I’m doing.
She looks back down at the document.
CUT TO BLACK
I like to run my fingers through the gentle folds in the current before I get started. I know it’s just an electric pump spitting water out of a glorified statue, but a fountain is more than the sum of its parts. Something about the soft touch of cold water just puts me in the right mindset.
Today I feel like starting with a quarter. Someone who wanted to pay a little extra for their wish. There’s never any rhyme or reason to which coins I pick…I just reach into the glimmering abyss and see what comes out. I hold the coin between my thumb and index finger and wait. It comes to me quickly enough…I can feel the small hand, caked in dirt and dried strawberry ice cream, as it tossed this coin into the ornate pool. Then comes the texture of the intention, the wish imparted onto this little piece of metal as it descended into the docile depths from which I reclaimed it. It’s simple and childish, as many wishes are; it’s a wish for ‘a little baby puppy’.
I don’t trust any kid to be responsible for a dog…the parents end up taking on all the chores the kid promised with a capital P they’d do every day. Best to spare them from that burden, spare the poor dog from a life of being ambiguously resented. I recompose the wish, imprinting a new message: ‘I wish for a cute little hamster’. Seems like a more fitting level of responsibility.
I toss the coin back into the fountain.
I reach in and pull out a penny. There’s something so enduring about pennies, and I always need to do at least one of them. The contours of the penny’s past start to take form; it’s a man’s hand that flicked this coin into the fountain. I smell gin on his breath, and I get a crushing sense of sadness. Devastation, really. His wish is for his lover to come back, for things to be like they used to.
I drop the coin back into the water; no need to meddle with this one. Who knows if things were all that great to begin with? For all I know, I’ve just resigned him to another few years of an unsatisfying relationship. Change is uncomfortable and inevitable, but I’ll let him find that out on his own.
One more. I grab a nickel this time. I can already tell it’s another wish for love; I guess they just have a certain feel to them. This time it’s an older woman with heavy hands, rigid with arthritis. I imagine she put a lot of effort into the act of getting this coin into the pool, enough for it to sting a little. Her wish is direct, in fact I think she might have rehearsed it: ‘I just want him to walk away from this, and we’ll never see each other again’.
I find that with love, distance doesn’t always make things better. What’s really necessary is a change from within...a new perspective on things. I decide to revise her wish: ‘I wish he’d disappear/
A stranger catches my shoulder and knocks me forward, dislodging my grip on the coin. I watch in horror as it falls back into the void of the cold water below. I turn in shock and anger; a young man stands next to me, completely unaware of what he’s done. His eyes are eagerly fixated on the fountain, and he pulls a humble penny from his pocket. I was going to recompose that last wish to say ‘I wish he’d disappear from my heart, and no matter what, the sight of him would never upset me again’…now I don’t know what will happen.
I don’t know what will happen to the young man next to me, either. He flicks his penny into the fountain; my eyes remain glued to it as it sinks. It settles in a region devoid of other coins, and the man walks away with an oblivious smile. I reach down, retrieving the isolated penny from the bottom of the basin.
I don’t know what his wish was yet, but he sure as hell is not going to get what he wants.
CALLING ALL CURATORS! We want to get your ideas on which direction the Untitled Japanese Folk Tale collab should go! Make albums of your favorite Japanese poetry, folk tales, music, & visuals!
CURATORS: Compile Albums of your favorite contributions to this collaboration in the following categories:
- Japanese Poetry
- Folk Tales
TITLE: RE: MONEY/ SO CALLED SECURITY
DESCRIPTION: A short script about an awkward funeral, fueled by money or lack thereof.
NAME: Christopher Harn
LOCATION: Washington DC
BIO: Writer. Sometimes I convince myself that I can do music and video as well.
ABOUT: This all sprang from Chrissy Regler’s fantastic testimonials on the subject of money. I used some of the more awkward moments of her experiences as the inspiration for this script, highlighting how money and family can make for an uncomfortable mix. I was fortunate enough to have it picked up for the episode, and it eventually evolved into the segment seen on the show! Using real life events as the starting point for a story was very new to me (I’d generally avoided it up to that point) and it got me out of my comfort zone in the best kind of way.
This is suuuuuch a better option than uploading the photos individually...may have realized this a little late in the game...